Breathe, Smile, Go Slowly


The alarm jangles. I stretch, roll out, and peek through the curtains.  I’ll have to wear snow pants and full gear.  The dogs will need their jackets, too.

Although we live in the middle of the city, the park is only two blocks away. This isn’t hard to imagine since there are 136 parks in Milwaukee. The largest one is over a thousand acres, but my park is a petite thirteen. We have time to make one round. The snow crunches under my boots and the dogs leap and yip, catching the chunky snowflakes swirling furiously around us.  The moon sets to the west just before the sun begins to wash a sliver of light blue across the horizon.

First trip of the day over.

New set of clothes, in the car, smiling. There are numerous independent cafés in Milwaukee, and lucky for me, just a two-minute drive from home is Amaranth Bakery.  They don’t know much about making coffee, but they know a lot about bakery. It’s healthy – fruit and spices and whole grains – fair trade and organic. It’s also wicked with butter.

“What scones did your lovely wife bake today?”  I am wishing for pear-cardamom.

“Well, we have cranberry-chocolate and pumpkin-pecan.  I know, I know…. Pear is tomorrow!”

“Oh well, I’ll settle for chocolate.  I may as well start the day with a little decadence!” The small paper sack is warm in my hand.

Back in the car, a short drive to the first school on my list. I have thirteen different schools to visit each week.  My large, urban district is having a difficult time retaining teachers; teaching students with special needs is a challenging vocation.  So I mentor new teachers. Support, advice, help with paperwork, and a shoulder to cry on. We problem solve, shed tears, laugh, and celebrate when the year is over and the students’ reading scores have miraculously improved.

“I don’t know what to do.  Javon came to school today after being absent for a week.” By this time the new teacher is crying. “I’m afraid it looks like he has cigarette burns on his arms.” We talk about the steps she should take. I give her a hug and some phone numbers.

Next trip, next school, another new teacher. She tells me about a child who is having a tough time sitting.  We decide she should consult the occupational therapist, ask him to observe and make some suggestions.  We talk about adjusting his work, building in movement breaks.  I explain to her some likely reasons for his behavior: lead poisoning, no dinner last night, drug dealing in the house. I share with her a list of warning signs for abuse.

Another school, one more new teacher, and then the trip home. On the way, I stop at Birdie’s Café for a latté and a slice of Blueberry-Cream Cheese-Coffeecake.  I am looking forward to another walk around the park; there’s probably time for two rounds before it gets dark.  And tomorrow is pear-cardamom day.



  4 comments for “Breathe, Smile, Go Slowly

  1. June 4, 2011 at 4:47 am

    You’ve made me hungry, sad about the state of educational affairs, and desirous of cooler weather, especially since it was upper 90’s and humid today. Stop it!

    Just kidding, keep it up girl, this is great!

    Thanks, Carl. And thanks for sending your weather our way! I am sitting at Alterra Cafe drinking iced coffee right now… no bakery for me today, though.

  2. Becca
    June 4, 2011 at 8:00 pm

    It sounds like you make the most of your days, Kerry. Your work sounds very rewarding, although it must be frustrating at times. I’d say you deserve those lovely bakery treats during the day!

    Hi Becca…. I don’t know about deserving, and I don’t know how wise!! Carbohydrates are my very favorite food group, though. That and caffeinated (and sometimes decaffeinated) drinks are also awfully important. I love the atmosphere of a little cafe, too. So relaxing.
    Thanks! I hope you’re having a great trip.

  3. June 11, 2011 at 4:27 am

    it”s good to know there are people watching and caring. children are neglected on so many levels. i could never do what you and others do. it would eat me alive.
    You probably could do it once you saw the kids!!
    Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  4. June 15, 2011 at 12:29 am

    The more I know of your work, the more I see both how demanding it can be and how heartbreaking. Your teachers are lucky indeed to have you on their side. And that cafe really does sound wonderful. Pear cardamom? Yum!

    The kids deserve all the help we can give. The GOP doesn’t seem to care much about them.
    Maybe we can fit that cafe in when you come to town!! And tapas at La Merenda, and…..

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